There’s no doubt that Soundcloud.com provides an even greater sense of intimacy between audience and musician than MySpace ever did, and that’s saying something. For all of MySpace’s visual annoyances, its allowance for sloppiness was a sign of its virtue, if not a virtue unto itself — the very structurelessness that made MySpace feel like anything goes lead to at least the illusion that anything went. In the end, though, MySpace became about more than just music, and in turn it became more about “the add,” the accrual of followers. (The appearance of the phrase “Thanks for the add” on any social network is a sure sign of a fatal flaw in the architecture of that network.)
With Soundcloud, the site’s utilitarian design — reminiscent of Penguin paperbacks — gives everyone equal visual standing, which leads to a sense not of cold utopian malaise but of solidarity and camaraderie. On MySpace, musicians might have generously posted live recordings and the occasional rough cut, but Soundcloud is rich with earlier-on stages in the creative process: sketches, experiments, one-offs, even lovely errors. To visit the Soundcloud of a favorite musician can, at times, be like visiting the musician’s garden: getting a glimpse at the raw materials from which future concoctions will be made. Case in point, the page of Stephen Vitiello, who just yesterday posted a five-minute drone from a recently obtained oscillator, as heard above. To listen to that drone change shape during the course of its existence is to listen ahead into the future, to get a sense of what new music Vitiello might be working on. If Soundcloud provides a sense of intimacy between musician and audience, it can perhaps best be experienced in an example like this one: when Vitiello eventually does release a commercial recording, or enact an installation, that involves this particular oscillator, his admiring listeners will recognize it, and think back to how Soundcloud created the environment in which it was initially shared.